Politicizing National Security

While the Christmas Day attempted bombing of a Delta airliner was unsuccessful Republicans are attempting to make political hay of the incident.  We know we have massive holes in our national security defense, we know this because George W. Bush refused to finance our homeland defense.  Instead he insisted on an “offense only” approach.  Ports, chemical plants and borders were ignored in favor of “taking it to the enemy.”  Now the GOP is trying to blame Barack Obama for Bush’s strategy.  Not only that but they are holding up TSA for political purposes.

I suppose this all goes back to Rush’s strategy of making Obama fail so Republicans can blame Democrats for their own failures.  By having someone like Sen. Jim DeMint block the appointment of someone to run TSA because he thinks allowing workers to stand up for themselves is worse than leaving the country vulnerable to attack they can then blame President Obama for not having someone at the helm.  It’s the classic “have your cake and eat it too” mentality.  Republicans can vote against funding and installation of chemical scanning machines (108 of them voted against it) then blame Obama for not having enough of them.  Of course they had eight years to fund and install these but invading a country which posed no strategic national security threat to us was more important.

Let us remember this flight originated in Amsterdam.  Barack Obama has no control over what the Dutch do, what security measures they use, or what any other country does at their airports.  These are all sovereign nations which resent us trying to tell them what to do.  We can only control what we do and we failed miserably in this area.  I’ve written repeatedly of the negligence given to our homeland security since 9/11.  We simply haven’t spent the money to upgrade in critical areas and what was spent was spent badly.  Much of it went for pork.  Much went where it wasn’t needed.

Making political hay because of one’s own negligence is worse than being disingenuous, it is outright fraud.  I’m past the point where I think Republicans have no shame, they have no sense of anyone but themselves.  As such they have no one but themselves to blame.

Update:  Sam Stein reports that eight GOP Senators voted against funding for airport screening and explosive detection equipment:

The Improving America’s Security Act of 2007 was a relatively non-controversial measure that effectively implemented several un-acted-upon recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. Eighty-five Senators voted in favor of the bill’s passage. Seven missed the vote (several of whom were on the campaign trail, including Barack Obama, John McCain and Chris Dodd).

Eight Republican Senators, however, voted against passage, including Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okl.) Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), James Inhofe (R-Okl.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ari.).

DeMint, of course, is the same Senator who chose to oppose unions more than terrorists.

Nigerian Faces Federal Terrorism Charges

The Nigerian man who attempted to start a fire inside a Northwest Airlines (Delta) plane on Christmas day has been charged with multiple felonies.  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab says he was affiliated with Al Qaeda in Yemen but investigation of those connections will have to be done by the FBI.  Al Qaeda is active in Yemen and that is the homeland of many terrorist leaders and operatives.

This is the proper method for countering terrorism:  investigate, arrest and prosecute.  It appears we got lucky this time because he got through airport security in Amsterdam.  Unfortunately we cannot control every aspect of security at every airport.

I wonder if this is revenge for all those of us who refused to suckered into the Nigerian bank scam.  Maybe if a few of us actually had some money left in our bank accounts we could have appeased these bankers (the man’s father works for a Nigerian bank).  Maybe we can use the Nigerian fraud letters as justification for nuking the country off the face of the earth.  After all it doesn’t take much for the U.S. to justify any invasion.  According to Cheney’s 1% doctrine this would be sufficient.  OK< enough of the sarcasm.  Prepare for even worse security nightmares after this debacle.  Soon we’ll all be strip searched at the airport.  

The Courage of Michael Vick

by Walter and Rosemary Brasch

           The Philadelphia Eagles honored reserve quarterback and admitted dog-killer Michael Vick with an award for courage. Yes, you read that right. “Michael Vick” and “courage” are in the same sentence.

             Each of the 32 NFL teams annually honors one of its own with an Ed Block award, named for the Baltimore Colts head trainer who was an advocate for improving the lives of neglected and abused children; the Foundation says it celebrates “players of inspiration in the NFL.” Unfortunately, there is no stipulation that football players who abuse animals are ineligible receivers.

             Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb told the Philadelphia Inquirer the award was “well deserved.” Vick, his team, and what appears to be a loyal foundation of fans who believe Vick will help lead the Eagles into a SuperBowl, all believe the man who ran Bad Newz Kennels has “seen the light,” has reformed, and is now a model citizen.

             However, Vick’s own words show the humility and humbleness that he should have are still missing from his egocentric world of sweating multi-millionaires.

             “It means a great deal to me,” Vick told the media, gloating that he “was voted unanimously by my teammates. They know what I’ve been through. I’ve been through a lot. It’s been great to come back and have an opportunity to play and be with a great group of guys. I’m just ecstatic about that, and I enjoy every day.” He further justified the honor by explaining, “I’ve overcome a lot, more than probably one single individual can handle or bear.” Elaborating, he declared, “You ask certain people to walk through my shoes, they probably couldn’t do. Probably 95 percent of the people in this world because nobody had to endure what I’ve been through, situations I’ve been put in, situations I put myself in and decisions I have made, whether they have been good or bad.” He said, “There’s always consequences behind certain things and repercussions behind them, too. And then you have to wake up every day and face the world, whether they perceive you in the right perspective, it’s a totally different outlook on you. You have to be strong, believe in yourself, be optimistic. That’s what I’ve been able to do. That’s what I display.” Not once in his statements to the media did Michael Vick apologize for what he did, or for the deals he cut in order to be restored to the status of a millionaire athlete. Everything he said was focused upon his own “courage,” with “I” being the prevalent word.

             Perhaps Michael Vick isn’t aware that courage is not being so vacuous as to believe it was acceptable to breed and arrange for dogs to fight to the death, to allow equally malevolent “fans” to bet on the matches, and by the cruelest means possible to kill dogs who didn’t perform as well as he thought they should. Going to prison for 18 months, losing two seasons of multimillion dollar income, having to work out to get into fighting condition, and then earning about $1.6 in his first year back into the NFL, with a second year option for about $5 million, isn’t courage.

             In case Michael Vick doesn’t know what courage is, here are just a few examples. There are thousands of others.

             Courage is the soldier who is on 100 percent disability from combat wounds who is now working almost every hour of every day with physical therapists, social workers, and other medical personnel to try to regain even the most remote possibility of being able to walk again.

             Courage is the firefighters who risk their lives to rescue people and their pets from burning buildings.

             Courage is law enforcement personnel who put their lives on the line to serve and protect the people.

             Courage is the “whistle blower” who risks a job and family stability to point out greed and corruption within a business, educational institution, or governmental agency.

            Courage is the lone dissenter who fights for social and economic justice in a society that is determined to continue the “me generation.”

             Courage is the recent graduate who delays entry into the job market, the mid-career executive who gives up the fast track, or the senior citizen who decides there is more to life than retirement, and volunteers for AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or any of hundreds of non-profit organizations that have taken on the burden of helping those who society has made invisible.

             Courage is the parents who work two low-income service jobs, support their families, and still donate time and money to charities that help those less fortunate than they.

             Courage is the family who last year had a home and job, and this year has neither but survives day to day.

             Courage is the animal rights advocates who risk their lives to fight against governments that allow the killing of whales, bears, seals, wolves, and hundreds of other animals; and to humane society staff and innumerable volunteers who rescue abandoned and abused animals, and who work with them to try to give them a better life.

            But most important, courage is all the people who know no matter what obstacles they overcome today, tomorrow will present the same challenges, and that they will never have any hope to be a millionaire or to receive an award for surviving against tremendous odds.

             In his comments after being notified of the award, Michael Vick proved himself to be an unworthy spokesman for anything or anyone other than himself.

           [Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist, former newspaper investigative reporter and editor, and journalism professor. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush. Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, Red Cross national disaster family services specialist, labor activist, and university instructor of labor studies.]

Easton Wal-Mart Sued for Bathroom Video Camera

Why does anyone still shop at Wal-Mart?  Haven’t there been enough exposes including their use of hundreds of undocumented workers to build their distribution warehouse in Schuylkill County?  Abusing their employees, discriminating against female workers and contributing huge sums for right wing politics isn’t enough?  Now the Supercenter in Easton, Northampton County, is being sued because employees planted a video camera to observe employees and customers in a unisex bathroom.  Imagine how many babies they watched getting diaper changes?  I suspect their true motivations lay elsewhere than infants however.  On the other hand, anyone still shopping at these stores get what they deserve.  This falls in the category of contributory negligence.

First Christmas in the New House

We celebrated Christmas in our new house yesterday and had a wonderful day.  My nephew and his wife were down from Boston and we had dinner at my niece’s house nearby.  It was a relaxing day with breakfast at 10, lunch at 2 while we exchanged stockings then dinner around 8 pm.  We tried something different this year and thought of a theme for our stockings.  Everyone had someone else’s name and had to fill a stocking around the theme “red.”  I had Liala, my nephew’s wife.  I chose the idea of Communism and made her a Commie spy.  Her stocking had a beautiful red scarf she had to wear so her “control” could ID her as the spy.  Dead drops hid the rest of the gifts and each was marked with a candy cane and she had to follow clues to find each one.  Unfortunately she and her husband (whom she had to recruit) were busted in the basement and handcuffed.  The final gift was the game of Risk (take over the world).  I had a ton of fun preparing everything and we all enjoyed playing out the scenario.

My stocking included several items from a place in Philadelphia called Betty’s Fudge.  There were some Betty’s Buttons fudge packets and some Phanatic Phluff.  My immediate reaction was our Aunt Betty because she was such a great baker.  It turns out this was her recipe.  The owner of the business in Grays Ferry is the daughter of our first cousin.  Betty was, indeed, our Aunt Betty.  She and our father were siblings.  One of my enduring memories growing up was trips upstate to Plymouth, then Kingston and then Harveys Lake to visit our Grandmother Elizabeth Morgan and Aunt Betty.  They moved out to th elake after being flooded out from Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.  We had family reunions at Harveys Lake for years before that.  My Aunt Betty always made a Welsh cookie for us we call tissian flats (and still make every Christmas).  I’ll have to check out the Grays Ferry store on my next trip to Philadelphia.

Lunch was a deli tray from Russo’s Market in Wyomissing.  Italian meats and cheeses amid a ton of delicious olives.  It was easier toe at than buy because the market was chaos Wednesday.  I still wonder how a business expects you to return when you spend $76 and they cannot even say thank you.  Dinner was lobster tarragon, oyster stew, beef tenderloins with plum sauce, turnips, corn casserole, popovers and pumpkin cheesecake.

So it was an eventful and great holiday.  I hope yours was just as good and memorable.

The Obama’s Christmas Address

The President and First Lady have issued Christmas greetings:

Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama

Weekly Address

December 24, 2009

PRESIDENT:  Hello everyone, and Merry Christmas.  As you and your families gather to celebrate the holidays, we wanted to take a moment to send greetings from our family-from me, from Michelle, from Malia and Sasha-and from Bo.

FIRST LADY:  This is our first Christmas in the White House, and we are so grateful for this extraordinary experience.  Not far from here, in the Blue Room, is the official White House Christmas Tree.  It’s an 18-foot tall Douglas-fir from West Virginia and it’s decorated with hundreds of ornaments designed by people and children from all over the country.  Each one is a reminder of the traditions we cherish as Americans and the blessings we’re thankful for this holiday season.  

PRESIDENT:  That’s right, especially as we continue to recover from an extraordinary recession that still has so many Americans hurting: parents without a job who struggled to put presents under the Christmas  tree; families and neighbors who’ve seen their home foreclosed; folks wondering what the new year will bring.  

But even in these tough times, there’s still so much to celebrate this Christmas.  A message of peace and brotherhood that continues to inspire more than 2,000 after Jesus’ birth.  The love of family and friends.  The bonds of community and country.  And the character and courage of our men and women in uniform who are far from home for the holidays, away from their families, risking their lives to protect ours.

To all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen-I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief.  I’ve been awed by your selfless spirit, your eagerness to serve-at the Naval Academy and West Point.  I’ve been energized by your dedication to duty-from Baghdad to the Korean Peninsula.  Michelle and I have been moved by your determination-wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda, fighting to recover, to get back to your units.

And I’ve been humbled, profoundly, by patriots who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  In flag-draped caskets coming home at Dover.  In the quiet solitude of Arlington.  And after years of multiple tours of duty, as you carry on with our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, your service, your readiness to make that same sacrifice, is an inspiration to us and to every American.

FIRST LADY:  And so are your families.  As First Lady, one of my greatest privileges is to visit with military families across the country.  I’ve met military spouses doing the parenting of two-keeping the household together, juggling play dates and soccer games, helping with homework, doing everything they can to make the kids feel OK even as they try to hide their own fears and worries.

I’ve met kids who wonder when mom or dad is coming home; grandparents and relatives who step in to care for our wounded warriors; and folks trying to carry on after losing the person they loved most in the world.

And through it all, these families somehow still find the time and energy to serve their communities as well-coaching Little League, running the PTA, raising money to help those less fortunate than they are, and more.

But even these strong military families can use a hand, especially during the holidays.  If you live near a military base, you can reach out through your workplaces, your schools, your churches.  There are so many ways to help-with child care, with errands, or by just bringing over a home-cooked meal.  Even if you don’t know a military family nearby, your family can still help by donating or volunteering at organizations that support military families.

PRESIDENT:  You can also reach out directly to our forces around the world.  Kids can make a card that will bring a smile to an American far from home.  Adults can send a care package or a pre-paid phone card that makes the tour at little easier.  Every American can do something to support our troops, even if it’s as simple as just saying thank you.  For more ways to let our troops know you care, go to www.whitehouse.gov

So to all our men and women in uniform spending the holidays far from home-whether it’s at a base here in the states, a mess hall in Iraq or a remote outpost in Afghanistan, know that you are in our thoughts and our prayers.  And this holiday season-and every Holiday season-know that we are doing everything in our power to make sure you can succeed in your missions and come home safe to your families.

FIRST LADY:  And to all Americans, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas.

PRESIDENT:  Merry Christmas, everybody.


Grand Jury Investigating State Sen. Orie

During the Supreme Court race this year I wrote about the legal and ethical lapses being performed by Judge Joan Orie Melvin and her sister Sen. Jane Orie.  The Judge campaigned all year with her State Senator sister at her side.  Now the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office has a grand jury probing the Senator, her office and staff for using public resources in the Supreme Court campaign.  A raid resulted in several computers and a server being seized.  Apparently an intern went to the DA the day before the election saying staff and offices were being used illegally in the campaign.

According to news reports Orie’s office was put under surveillance.  Oops, that could be very bad for the Senator and her sister.

Surprise, surprise….  Not.  The Ories crossed legal lines long ago so nothing which is uncovered by the probe will surprise me.  The people of Pennsylvania should be ashamed for electing Joan Orie Melvin and her low ethical standards to our highest court.  It is interesting the intern went to the DA instead of the state Attorney General.  Tom Corbett, infamous for politicizing the office of AG may have been perceived as an unfriendly place to take such a case.

Senate Moves Health Insurance Reform Forward

The Senate passed its greatly flawed health insurance reform bill this morning.  This is a key step towards possible progress if the bill can be reconciled with the House bill passed last month.  The composition of the conference committee will be crucial and I’m not confident a progressive bill can be merged.  If so it goes back to each chamber for reconciliation votes.  This is an important step because reconciliation doesn’t allow for filibusters in the Senate.  That means obstructionist Democrats become irrelevant.  That’s why the composition of the conference committee is crucial:  the wrong members will produce a bad bill, good ones can produce a positive bill.

Tis the Season to be Merry: Orie Criminal Investigation opens up

Perzel, DeWeese, and Orie… those are not the names of Santa’s reindeer, those are the name of lawmakers in a pot of hot water about to come to a boil.  

This morning breaking news out of Pittsburgh reports that Jane Orie, the third most powerful Republican in the state has had a Allegheny County Grand Jury criminal investigation opened up on her.  To me, as a Democrat and someone that was genuinely disgusted over her sleazy last minute smears on Jack Panella, a good man and an even better Judge, this comes as an early Christmas present.

Here is the link to the story.  It appears that Jane Orie’s office is now under surveillance by detectives and all computers have been seized.


It appears an employee or intern from early reports has apparently come forward to authorities to tell of Orie using her Senate office and staff to perform fundraising and campaign work on behalf of her sister, Joan Orie Melvin.  The investigation started unfortunately for Jane, before the election was over. This poses some interesting questions regarding the late infusion of cash into her campaign, whether her sister knew of it, and just how many are going to be involved in this probe.

Also, it will be interesting to see if Tom Corbett will look the other way on his friends from Pittsburgh.  

This coincides with confidential tales ive heard from a very authoritative and confidential source, that Orie and her sister stumped on the campaign trail… showing up promising to fix cases for people in Erie and Philadelphia

, and pledging to gerrymander the re-districting in favor of Republicans.

Nonetheless, Morgan and I already knew that this whole case smelled foul… next year we’ll have to work on a parody titled “the 12 indictments of Christmas” for everyone…  Nonetheless, it appears that Orie and potential Orie Melvin could be in very deep trouble.  

Yes, Morgan… there is a Santa Claus!